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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Rogue Agency Ruining the Roost

Rogue Agency Ruining the Roost

by Bill Belitskus
Allegheny Defense Project Board President

The Allegheny Forest Service continues to operate as a rogue forest within the National Forest System, subservient to the oil and gas and timber industries and their congressional and PA state legislature cronies. While the Allegheny National Forest is under assault from conventional oil and gas drilling and unconventional shale gas extraction, the Forest Service is ramping up its commercial "even age" clearcut logging projects, continuing to promote black cherry tree farming for its high monetary “value” without considering the cumulative impacts with oil and gas drilling and industrial logging on climate, air quality, water quality, soils, species, wildlife habitat and remote recreation. Outdoor tourism and recreation is second only to agriculture in providing meaningful employment in PA, jobs that will last as long as the forest remains standing and the streams flow clean and free.

The Forest Service is operating under the unfinished, illegal, 2007 forest plan:

• The Forest Service is relying on old monitoring and evaluation reports from as far back as 1998. Even more egregious is the Forest Service’s reliance on oil and gas industry produced reports that deny any damage is taking place and have never been released to the public for comment. The Forest Service is refusing to complete the yearly monitoring and evaluation reports required by the 2007 plan, intended to “ensure that long-term productivity of the land is maintained or improved.”

• The Forest Service has not “produced and distributed to the public” any monitoring and evaluation reports on implementation of the 2007 Forest Plan on time. The Fiscal Year 2008 report was not produced and distributed to the public until April, 2013, approximately four years late and only after the Allegheny Defense Project filed a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) demanding the completed reports. The Forest Service, saying that it “intends” to produce additional monitoring and evaluation reports that it was required to produce years ago, satisfies neither the law nor the Forest Plan. Moreover, we have no assurance that the Forest Service will produce the additional reports in a timely fashion.

• The Forest Service has yet to identify, inventory and protect habitat for the synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus) while at the same time ignoring oil and gas drilling development and proposing commercial logging projects in known areas of their habitat. In 2011, Allegheny Defense Project discovered and documented synchronous fireflies in the Allegheny, a rare species found only in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. One other species of firefly that displays synchronous characteristics can be found in the remote mountain forests of Southeast Asia (Pteroptyx malaccae). These amazing creatures are a significant tourist attraction in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and we are working with researchers, local communities, and businesses to bring this sustainable eco-tourism opportunity to the Allegheny region.

• The Forest Service did not recognize oil and gas drilling as a significant issue in the 2007 Forest Plan and failed to create the necessary standards and guidelines required to mitigate the cumulative impacts of industrial logging, oil and gas drilling and unconventional shale gas extraction. 

• The 2007 Forest Plan did not consider the wide-ranging impacts of shale gas development on newly listed endangered mussel species. Nor did it consider the impacts of shale gas development on the species that were listed as threatened and endangered at the time the plan was signed. In 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) added three additional mussel species (the rayed bean, snuffbox, and sheepnose) to the endangered species list in addition to the already listed clubshell and northern riffleshell. All five species have existing populations in the Allegheny River. The USFWS recently stated that one of the threats to these species is the recent increase in unconventional shale gas development.

• The Forest Service must amend or revise the current Forest Plan to protect the lands along the Allegheny River corridor from new road and pipeline construction, well site development, and other impacts associated with oil and gas drilling that fragment forested habitats and increase erosion and sedimentation of streams and rivers.

• The Forest Service needs to recognize the dramatic increase in Marcellus shale gas drilling and reasonably foreseeable gas drilling into the Utica and other shale formations as a significant change in the conditions or demands in the area covered by the Forest Plan.

• The Forest Service needs to amend the Allegheny Forest Plan or scrap the entire flawed plan. The Forest Service is held captive by its task masters, the oil and gas and timber industries and their congressional and PA state legislature cronies. It acquiesced its duty and authority to protect the Allegheny’s forested watersheds from extractive industries when it stated in the 2007 Forest Plan that,

“As a result [of oil and gas drilling], those seeking a more remote and less developed recreation experience could be displaced to other state or national forests where remote, semi-primitive settings and experiences are more readily available.” (Allegheny Forest Plan FEIS 2007)


Anonymous said...

Its funny how a group of radicals can and will twist things around to fit their own agenda. They seek out and attempt to "educate" people from outside the area, the problem is they are only telling half of what should be told in an attempt to gain their backing. What has Mr. Belitskus' employment been(income) for the past several years, maybe he has good reason to push his agenda.

Anonymous said...

It's a federal agency and responds to the local congressional rep, and we all know who that is and what he stands for. This is no surprise. Politics ALWAYS filters down to the front lines with the feds, and the forest suffers for it.
The last congress was the first in more than 60 years not to add to wilderness areas; the GOP wants to drill in all our federal lands, including parks and wilderness, so it should come as no surprise that the few parcels worthy of designation in the Allegheny National Forest will never get there. Too bad, too, because we are the only area in the country with a national forest and no protected wilderness. We can thank GT for that, and the GOP reps that came before him and are continually supported by people who only seek to exploit and profit, never to protect and preserve.

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when you have a radical pushing an agenda. I believe but COULD be wrong that the Photinus carolinus (synchronous Fireflies) only live in the Great Smoky Mts. This is why people have a hard time believing individuals that are way too radical for mainstream beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Since when is it a radical idea to protect the environment and forests? What an ignorant idea that is, and how have we come to the point where people accept it a gospel? Just because you lock onto the word "radical" and keep saying it, that doesn't make it true. A more radical behavior is to continue to destroy our natural resources with little regard to the land and water.
I used to hike there but rarely do any longer. Far too many radicals running about.

Anonymous said...

A real conservative would want to preserve our forests for the future generations.

NOT rape and pillage it so some already rich asshole in Texas or Louisiana can get even richer.

We've learned to lumber responsibly. I see no evidence of responsibility in the drilling industry. Just cost-benefit analysis (break the law and pay the fine if it makes $$ sense).

All they do is try to get as much done as possible with the least amount of fanfare and legally gagging anyone that tries to speak about the details.

Can you say fly by night?

Love me some oil and lumber said...

WOW, So if you are from TX or LA and have been successful, you are an a.....e? Could you possibly be a bit jealous that they have done well for themselves in the oil and gas business?
Should we not utilize OUR natural resources or should we continue to send our money overseas to purchase MORE oil? This may be a bit off topic but VERY relevant to gasoline prices in the Northeast. If you want something to complain about with Fed policy, look into the Jones Act that drives the cost of gasoline up needlessly. Ship a barrel of oil from Houston to Philly $5-6, ship it to Canada $ 2-3. Jones Maritime Act. Look it up and put your efforts into something meaningful that people will benefit from. Get THAT law changed....Transplanting %$#^&* fireflies from the Smokies to the Allegheny Forest? Are you serious? We are going to hand carry them northward I assume? But...walking at night we would have plenty of light utilizing fireflies to light the way. Put 'em in a glass jar? nope... sand was harvested... metal cage? nope again...iron ore....plastic? NO WAY!! petroleum product!...wooden box?...trees. I guess we hand carry them Northward to the Alleghenies. Would make a great documentary for Al Gore's AL Jazeera channel.
If they wanted to be here, might they already be here? Aren't we violating the natural order by introducing a non-native species?

Did you know if you cut a tree another one will grow right nearby to replace it? Putting a 10" hole in the ground, what will we see when the drill crew is gone? A single pipe sticking out of the ground?
I assume you ride your bicycle (with non rubber tires petroleum is used there too) to the store to purchase vegetables NOT planted, NOT cultivated OR NOT transported using an internal combustion engine. Again, peeetroleeumm.... Your computer is solar powered I assume? I hope you are not using electricity generated by natural gas or coal. But I guess with the money you save by only bicycling, you can afford solar panels or wind turbines both of which are Federally subsidized so some a..hole from KS or CA can get richer!
Quote from the article,"Outdoor tourism and recreation is second only to agriculture in providing meaningful employment in PA, jobs that will last as long as the forest remains standing and the streams flow clean and free"....HUH? Are you kidding me?
How many are employed STRICTLY in tourism? Yes, tourism DOES generate many millions of dollars in this area and IS needed. It is a valuable resource. But....Last I knew, oil, gas and timber keep a VERY LARGE number of people employed in McKean, Warren, Potter, Elk, Forest Counties. So, they can no longer get enough trees in this area or no longer drill for oil. Keystone Chipping shuts down, Particle Board Plant, Kane Hardwood, RAM, Bfd. Forest Products, same. No trees, so no cutters, no skidders and no log trucks so no Heavy Equipment dealer needed either so Cleveland Brothers and Big Dog in Lantz Corners gone too. ARG, United Refiners, Intl Wax gone. Ancillary businesses like tire sales, tools, fuel (whoops..the "P" word again, mechanics, parts dealers, accountants, banks, the list goes on and on. Tax revenue for the Township? County? State? High unemployment? Not many jobs left, but by Damn, we have synchronous fireflies!! Hand carried North too!!
Did you know they have been drilling for oil and cutting trees in this area for over 40 years!! maybe even more!! possibly over 75 years!! Maybe even more! Amazingly, still LOTS and LOTS of trees and the creeks AREN'T running full of oil! PLUS... We have tourism too!!Amazing what can happen when people use their common sense and utilize what was given them, both by way of natural resources AND COMMON FRICKING SENSE!!!

Anonymous said...

Did you know if you cut a tree another one will grow right nearby to replace it? Putting a 10" hole in the ground, what will we see when the drill crew is gone? A single pipe sticking out of the ground? So true 12:44 AM!
I have no quarrel with many of your points. But rather than remaining energy sufficient/efficient, the energy corps are shipping gas & oil to other countries. We don't need to suck out all of the resources this decade just to pump up the bottom line. Hopefully many generations will follow ours & will not look back at this generation as the ones who squandered natural resources. Trees will grow back-what about oil & gas?

Anonymous said...

The last time I hiked the Morrison Trail in the forest, I came across a cut in the trail that turned out to be a road bulldozed to accommodate a well. There was no remediation, just a muddy/clay road bisecting the trail, and no indication where to pick it up on the other side.

It isn't that most of us don't appreciate the economic benefits of gas/oil drilling, it's just the attitude expressed by some that it takes precedence over everything else, and if you even suggest regulating how it's done, you somehow are labeled a radical. That's pure b.s.

And if you suggest even a small fraction of the forest is designated for wilderness such as the proposal by Friends of the Allegheny Wilderness, you are vilified.

There's room for all interests in the forest, but politics being what they are, and money flowing as it does, wilderness and conservation ALWAYS come out on the short end of the stick.

Jobs are important, especially in a rural area like this. But so too is the ability to enjoy the forest primeval, to go and connect with our origins and commune with nature. You may mock it all you want, but that's your problem. It should not be a either/or proposition.

And by the way, Al Jazeera has better news coverage, especially international and war corresponding, than our major broadcast networks and cable outlets. Open your mind a little.

Let's Meet in the Middle said...

I actually DO like the Al Jazeera channel, less biased on most things. Point being Al Gore's "global warming" discussion. Record heat! Record Cold! Put them together and we have an Average Temperature range. Record drought, record rain/snow, result, average precipitation consistent with 100 yr. averages. We can no longer have a middle of the road attitude, it doesn't sell anything. More like if we cut trees, the forest is ruined! if we drill for oil, the forest is ruined. Too much extremism. How about some intelligent discussions on a middle of the road approach. Unfortunately, that approach gets lost because it is not too "left" or too "right". Who hasn't seen many old well sites that are only visible when actually standing right there on the spot. A single piece of pipe left standing with concrete in it. If that offends someone so they can no longer commune with nature, I think an intervention may be in order as there are larger issues at play here. Control the water runoff and a "road" will revert to it's natural state in a couple of years. I am fairly certain that cutting a few cherry trees will not have a significant impact on "climate, air quality, water quality, soils, species, wildlife habitat and remote recreation."
We are not talking clear cutting on this. Again, don't talk reality. Talk so far to the left that people ARE turning away from your message. If BOTH sides met in the middle, things would be much more productive but that way of thinking doesn't garner any attention. This middle road thinking is where MOST Americans are but their voices are not heard as they are not...(can I say the "R" word?) "radical" enough to sell books and magazines. How about looking at the Forest Service plan of harvesting the Black Cherry trees that are at their peak value, leave the immature trees that in 20 years will then be at their peak value, to be replaced by more trees at their...etc etc. Nooooo...we have to resort to "climate change, air quality, water quality etc. I have harvested many, many thousands of dollars worth of Black Cherry off of my properties. My water is still awesome and I don't think that the environment has suffered any ill effects due to a lack of these Cherry trees. Unfortunately, the only way some people CAN get their name in the news is to display this skewed view as has been witnessed many times in the previous decade at the McKean County Commissioners meetings. Never could they say something that certain people were crying foul for one reason or another. No names needed here but anybody who has been exposed to the local media has seen this name repeatedly for one reason or another. If you want to read some absurd humor, Google the name and McKean County. Concern over East Resources and "port-a-potties." Lawsuit over "Illegal" Commissioner pay raises. Marcellus wells will explode and kill us. Tritium leaking from the landfill, (which by the way is BELOW US EPA Stds) etc, etc, blah,blah.. ad nauseum. Like a previous poster stated, sounds like there may be an agenda for personal gain?

Anonymous said...

I do not think we should be importing insects or other non native or native species into our area. They could be harboring fungus or bacteria or something we don't know anything about yet that may kill other species.{why are they endangered} This guy is a city slicker that has been trying to stop any economic activity here for quite a few years. Does he get financial gain from these non profits?